Updated guidance from government, detailing controls around financial support available to registered providers, has caused upset and continued worry about the future sustainability of many businesses across the early years sector.
In the early years section of Coronavirus (COVID-19): financial support for education, early years and children’s social care' it confirms that a private provider should only furlough employees, and therefore seek support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, if they meet the following conditions:
- the employee works in an area of business where services are temporarily not required and where their salary is not covered by public funding;
- the employee would otherwise be made redundant or laid off;
- the employee is not involved in delivering provision that has already been funded (free entitlement funding);
- (where appropriate) the employee is not required to deliver provision for a child of a critical worker and/or vulnerable child; and
- the grant from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme would not be duplicative to other public grants received and would not lead to financial reserves being created.
This contradicts previous guidance from Government that providers receiving 'free' entitlement funding would also be able to access the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CVJRS) to furlough their staff without any restrictions.
Liz Bayram, Chief Executive at the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) comments:
"Any childcare provider who employs staff and delivers funded early education places is now between a rock and a hard place with the Government back-tracking on its commitment to allowing them to access its furlough scheme and continue to receive funding for these places. The funding for early education DOES NOT cover the cost of delivering that place for most providers and we are concerned many will now have no option but to face the risk of permanent closure when this pandemic is over.
“Most nurseries, pre-schools as well as childminders who employ assistants should today be starting their first application for the CVJRS, hopeful that the cash they need to survive will arrive imminently. Instead they are now faced with having to revisit the decisions they have made on staff furlough; complex calculations of the proportion of staff delivering early education places and more worry at an already difficult time. Most providers deliver early education places to families in a flexible way across any given week; using a variety of different staff and approaches. It will be no small challenge to now try to work out which staff should be furloughed and who retained. All made worse if they are also asking some of their team to risk ill health to stay open for vulnerable children and those of key workers.
“It is beyond disappointing that what essentially is a compromise between DfE and HM Treasury has left so many providers in this situation. PACEY will continue to show Government that this decision is going to leave many providers at risk of permanent closure and any concern they have that providers may profit from the pandemic is misguided. We will also now work to develop our best advice to providers on how to develop the evidence they now need to decide if they can continue to furlough staff and receive the funding previously promised.”